Listening to Women’s Voices: Dundee Women’s Festival 16 March 2019

DWF image TEXTIt was a snowy, windy Spring day, but we made it to Dundee for our Oral History Workshop on Saturday 16th  March as part of the Dundee Women’s Festival. A good number of hardy souls braved the weather to join us on the HMS Unicorn where we set up in in the beautiful Captain’s Room. The voices around the Captain’s table were not that of the Captain and his men, but rather a group women talking about listening and recording women’s voices.

We had the honour of being the last event of Dundee Women’s Festival and were joined by the Festival’s Chair, Prue Watson, who braved the cold in her fab t-shirt to deliver some lovely closing words. We heard about the wonderful events this year from female engineers to those working to end gender based violence, women participated in workshops and talks that empowered and inspired them. Prue also told us that the HMS Unicorn was used for training the WRENS during World War Two so a fitting place for us to discuss ways to preserve women’s history. Well done to the committee at Dundee Women’s Festival and all the participants on yet another successful year. Next year’s theme will be waterways and coasts with more details to follow throughout the year.

Everyone brought different levels of experience and ideas about recording women’s history through oral history, which made it a very enjoyable afternoon. We explored the idea of oral history being able to record the everyday and ordinary lives that are often overlook by official histories. In thinking about our own family histories, we talked about the importance and value of having women’s stories and their actual voices recorded for future generations. Ethics formed a central part of our discussion. Particularly on the problem of anonymity and how to consider those who want their story to be heard and attributed. If we are recovering women’s voices, do we then silence them with blanket anonymity sometimes required by funders and ethics committees? How we remember and what we remember was a keen topic with questions about authenticity. The chat and discussion was so engaging it was over before we knew it. Apart from the cold weather and a few technical difficulties, we had a great time taking part in the Dundee Women’s Festival and hopefully have laid the ground to get more women recording and listening to women’s voices in history.

Yvonne McFadden (social media convenor)

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